Sonny Dykes debates the merits of the 4-3 and the 3-4 defense, and goes in-depth about the importance of defensive tackles

Sonny Dykes is very much not in favor of week-night games, of which the Bears have two in a row, and expressed his displeasure at that, and his dismay in the lack of experience the Bears have on defense as Cal prepares for Oregon in this full, annotated transcript of his Tuesday press conference.

Opening comment: "Had a good open week, thought our guys had a chance to have three good days of practice, and at the same time, get a little bit of a break. It's been a long season for us, starting a week early and going to Australia, so our guys need to get away a little bit, so we gave them a couple days off, then came back to work and had three good days of practice, which was good for us. We were able to focus on some fundamentals and at the same time got a little bit of a head start on Oregon, and then transition in to this week. Guys are in a good place, just looking forward to coming out and playing on Friday." On Oregon's fall this season: "I think, first of all, that's the mark of the league a little bit. You just look around the league, and they've lost three conference games to probably the three hottest teams in the league right now, when you look at Washington State's playing good football, Colorado's playing good football and Washington's been playing good football. They caught some teams that were pretty hot, and all three of them can score points and move the ball. I think sometimes [...] I've always said that who you play has an impact on how you perform, sometimes. That's been part of it. They're making a transition from one style of defense to another, they've been a little bit young in some places and a little bit banged up, but you can see the guys improving and starting to trigger faster and play more aggressively and that type of thing, so you can definitely see that they're improving. But, as I said, it's a tough league. You go and you look from the top to bottom in this league, and anybody can beat anybody, and it happens every Saturday. There's going to be some teams that get hot and go on a run, and there's going to be some teams that have a rough patch, but this is a good football team. Oregon's a good team. They've got good players, they've got good coaches. They have a lot of guys that have been successful and know how to win. At the end of the day, it's a good football team that probably hasn't played their best, but I'm sure they will."

On Oregon's passing defense (117th in the nation, with 284.3 yards per game allowed): "They've got talented athletes on the back end. You look at guys who have played that have been part of good defenses, so they know how to play. They've just been on their heels a little bit, and sometimes, what happens defensively a little bit is when you can't stop the run, it makes it hard to play good defense. We've dealt with some of that at times this year. It's hard the way people play offense now. There's always a numbers game up front, and unless you have dominant defensive tackles -- you look around the league, and the teams that are playing really good defense have dominant defensive tackles, and that's really what it comes down to -- when people are spreading the ball out as much as they are, when you can put five people in the box and still be able to play the run, then you're going to be a tough defense. The teams that are playing really good defense have those tackles. Washington's got some really dominant defensive tackles. Utah's really big and strong and physical up front, so that helps when you have those guys that are veterans and bigger guys."

What have you done and looked at to shore up your defense (107th in red zone defense, 125th in rushing attempts allowed, 127th in rushing first downs allowed, 128th in rushing touchdowns allowed, 127th in rushing yards allowed with 283.83, 123rd with 40.00 points per gam allowed, 123rd in fewest TFLs per game with 4.17 and 128th in yards per rushing attempt allowed with 5.87): "Oh, we've looked at a bunch of different stuff. You make adjustments all the time. You make them based on who you're playing, you make them based on your personnel, you make them based on your success, so for us, we went back to look at everything. We had time to do it, and just make sure you're putting your players in the best position you can put them in to be successful, and that's what coaching is, is figuring out what your guys can do and then asking them to do things that they can do, and do it successfully." in particular has he seen that can be tweaked: "Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely. There's tons of things, scheme-wise, that you can do to try to cover up for some issues that you might have. That's things that you talk about, you go through them and you make those adjustments and those changes, and again try to figure out how to put your players into the best positions you can put them into."

4-3 vs a 3-4 defense: "It's interesting. In some ways, if you're playing four-down, you're playing with two true tackles, and if you're playing with three down, you're almost playing with three D-tackles -- you're playing with a nose guard and two bigger guys. I think in some ways, the four-down that a lot of people are playing is a little bit easier. From a personnel standpoint, if you're a three-down, you can do some different things with a nose tackle, because that can be a bigger, one-gap player, who doesn't maybe have to be as mobile as the other guys -- the guys that are going to play your five technique or your 4-i, depending on what you're going to do, scheme-wise. It's kind of pick-your-poison on that."

Cal currently has two defensive tackles injured -- the team's No. 2 tackle Luc Bequette (ACL), and JuCo transfer Russell Becker, who was seen walking out of practice on Tuesday in a protective boot. Oregon State double-teamed top defensive tackle James Looney last time out, and while defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has not seen that much from Oregon, it's certainly a possibility that the Ducks will do the same in order to open up creases in the middle, where the Bears are depleted at safety.

Matching up with four-receiver sets, and the gun read is the 4-3 better: "That's a great conversation. You can have that conversation with coaches for months. Yes and no. A lot of it just depends on what kinds of athletes that you have. That's really what it comes down to. Defense is about experience, and obviously about athletes, as well. That's the thing. The good defenses are the ones that are playing with experience. You just look around. That's what it takes to play good defense in college football, is the teams that have juniors and seniors that are starting, up front and on the back end and at linebacker. Those are the good defenses, because those guys can make adjustments, because you're going to see so many different things, week in and week out, in college football, schematically, from an offense, and it becomes such a match-up game that you have to be able to adjust, you've got to be able to have guys that are versatile and have adjusted and can adjust. If you're trying to do that with a redshirt junior who redshirted a year in your program and learned your defense and has gotten a lot of reps, has played a little bit as a freshman, a little more as a sophomore and now is a starter as a junior, that's a lot easier to do than if you're doing it with a guy who has been playing a different position that you've moved to this position. That's the thing: Look at the top defenses in the league, and pull out the depth chart, and it comes down to experience. That's how you play good defense in college football, now."

Update on Bequette: "Yeah, yeah, Luc's not going to play. Luc had ACL surgery, so he'll be out." three safeties (Griffin PiattDamariay DrewEvan Rambo), but you also lost two linebackers -- Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson -- who were your most experienced linebackers: "Any time you lose experience, it hurts your program, especially defensively, because what you're having to do so much defensively now is react and read and make decisions, because you're being stressed so many different ways on offense. Experience is hard to come by. Any time you lose somebody that's been playing for you for a while, and has been a good player, you don't want to lose those guys. Our situation is unique here. When we get guys that graduate, which is our job, it's hard to get them into graduate school here, so you're going to lose guys, sometimes, that you're happy for them, that they were able to graduate, but at the same time, now that they're graduated, they can't continue at your program. They can go play against you, but they can't play for you."

On linebacker Ray Davison: "Ray gives us a ton of confidence, a ton of energy. He's a popular guy. The players like him. He's a good leader. He's one of those guys that you know is going to give you his best every day, whatever he's doing, whether he's in the weight room, down in the locker room, the guys are always around him, he's got a big personality. Everybody respects his work ethic, respects the way he handles himself on and off the field. He's a guy that's really worked incredibly hard, and I think it's starting to pay off for him. He's playing at a higher level, he's triggering faster, he's playing with more confidence, he's doing some good things, and again, it's coming from the fact that he's played a lot, and his experience. You start to see defensive players kind of grow into those roles as leaders and good players, a lot of it has to do with experience, and certainly, he's one of those guys who's got a lot of it."

Aisea Tongilava is on the depth chart every week, but he doesn't play a lot and hasn't been very effective: "He's fine. Any time we're going to play with three linebackers, he'll be in the game with a three-linebacker look. We just haven't played with three linebackers a whole lot. What he's doing, when we get into a three-linebacker thing, he'll be the Willy backer in that situation, but he can also be a backup at other linebacker spots, as well."

Being back at home, where Cal is 2-0 this season, both wins coming against ranked teams, as opposed to on the road, where the Bears are 0-3: "Guys have played well at home. Our guys enjoy playing here. We certainly get a lot of energy from the crowd, and guys are playing with confidence. I think you go and you look at the games that we've played, we've been able to make some plays down the stretch at home, where we haven't done it as well on the road, and I think when you play the kinds of games we've played, where every game has been competitive, and every game comes down to one or two plays right at the end of the ballgame, our guys have that confidence that they can make those plays here at home, and they've done it so far this year, and carrying into last year, as well. I think that the fact that we are playing at home, I think our guys are excited about it, looking forward to it. We've had kind of a weird schedule. We haven't played many home games so far this season. We've only played at home twice. I think our guys are looking forward to getting out there Friday, and getting in front of the home crowd and getting in front of the student section and playing at a high level." having four of the last six games (vs. Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Washington) at home: "I think it's something that, we don't look forward much a lot. You just can't afford to, today. It's always about just trying to get a little bit better today, and it's such a cliche, but really, honestly, it's true. You don't look too much down the road. You just can't afford to. But, it's certainly comforting, because our guys do play with confidence. It's a tough home schedule. It's not like we're playing a bunch of bad football teams at home. They're all good teams, but at the same time, we have played well, and we have played with confidence, and our guys look forward to playing at home, for sure."

Cal is winless in its last seven games (2009-2015) against Oregon, and Sonny Dykes is 0-12 against the Ducks, Stanford, USC and UCLA, all of whom loom in the second half of the schedule: "It'd be good to win. It's good to win in the Pac-12. Every game's a battle, and I don't think it means anything more, really, how long it's been since you've beat somebody. I don't know how long it's been and I'm sure our players don't know. This'll be my fourth year, and I know I haven't beat them yet, so you always want to beat the teams you haven't had a chance to beat yet, and we haven't beat Oregon, and we haven't played particularly well against these guys."

Cal has been outscored 158-85 in the last three meetings against the Ducks, and have allowed no fewer than 44 points in a game against Oregon under defensive coordinators Andy Buh and Art Kaufman. In fact, the Ducks have scored no fewer than 43 points in a game against the Bears since the 15-13 squeaker at Memorial Stadium in 2010 against then-defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Cal has not played Oregon at Memorial Stadium since 2012, playing the 2014 contest at the San Francisco 49ers' Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

"It's the first time we've played them in our stadium in four years, so we're excited to have a home game and have a chance to play them here on campus. But, it's just kind of the next game."

Adjustments to the academic side due to having two week-night games in a row (Oregon this week, USC next Thursday in Los Angeles): "Yeah, yeah. That's hard for us. I mean, it's really, really difficult for our guys, especially with midterms and the things that are going on right now. I'm not a proponent of the midweek games. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I think we have too good a product, as a league, to do what we do and marginalize ourselves the way that we do sometimes, but they didn't ask me." Top Stories